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Colonial Cases

Attorney General v. Cork and Bavillot, 1932

[police powers]

Attorney General v. Cork and Bavillot

District Court of Jerusalem
2 December 1932
Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 4 December 1932

 

IN THE COURTS

DISTRICT COURT OF JERUSALEM

Saturday, December 2

BRITISH POLICEMEN ACQUITTED

 

Attorney General

v

  1. P.C. N. F. Cork, (2) P.C. L. G. Bavillot.

Before Judge de Freitas, Plunkett and Mejid Abdul Hadi.

   The District Court acquitted the accused on the ground that in the absence of definite regulations to guide a policeman as to the circumstances under which he may use his rifle, the accused had not exercised the discretion given to them by law unreasonably.

   On September 5, two British Constables stationed at Artuf Police Post, were informed that several Bedouins had been seen carrying contraband between Latroun and Asleen villages.  Taking their loaded rifles they proceeded, mounted and in uniform, to the scene.  Owing to the roughness of the ground, they had to dismount and about 5 p.m. came upon the six Bedouins who fled at sight.  On being outdistanced, the police fired, killing one man and wounding another.

Authorised to Arrest

   The Court held that under the circumstances, the accused reasonably formed the opinion that they were authorised to arrest the smugglers and that, had they not fired, the fugitives would have escaped.  Moreover, the Court held that Section 10 of the Arrest of Offenders sand Searches Ordinance, 1924, applied.  This is to the effect tat, if a person who is liable to arrest resists or attempts to evade arrest, the person authorised to arrest may use all "reasonable means necessary to effect the arrest."

   As the words "all reasonable means necessary to effect the arrest" are ambiguous and too general, a policeman who is armed with a rifle ought to have a little more instruction as to when to use his arms, than is contained in the few unfortunately worded lines of the Police Manual on the subject.

Power of Police to Shoot

   The Court added: "We wish to emphasise, however, that a policeman has not got a free hand to shoot offenders who flee from arrest but on the contrary a policeman must always remember that the taking of human life cannot be easily justified.  But we think that it is incumbent on the proper authorities to issue forthwith definite and unambiguous regulations regarding the power of police to shoot."

   The Attorney General was represented by the Government Advocate; the accused by Abcarius Bey (with him Mr. Cattan and Mr. Seligman.)

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School